2020 Blizzard Firebird HRC Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Over the past few months, we've reviewed a lot of new all-mountain and freeride skis being released for the 2020 ski season. This week, we're changing the focus to frontside carving skis, specifically the new Blizzard Firebird HRC. The Firebird collection was introduced this past ski season and was quickly adopted by skiers who value precision and power. These skis are now the majority of Blizzard's frontside-focused skis, with the Quattro series trimmed down to just three skis intended more for recreational cruising than high speed, aggressive carving.
The Firebird collection is now quite robust. It's home to their FIS certified race skis, junior race skis, and also more consumer-based skis like this Firebird HRC. There are five "consumer" skis in the series, and the SRC, HRC, and WRC share the same construction. The Firebird Competition 76 and Race Ti models both drop some of the features found in the SRC, HRC, and WRC, but accordingly offer lower price points. The easiest way to think about the SRC, HRC, and WRC is by their varying turn radii. The SRC is the shortest turn radius, more a slalom ski than anything else with its 11-13.5 meter radius range. The WRC is the longest, ranging from 16.5 to 19.5 meters. Both of those skis are 68 mm underfoot. The HRC, however, is wider. It has a 76 mm waist width and its turn radii fall in between the SRC and WRC, ranging from 13 to 17 meters. The sidecut is also multi-radius for each length; short in the tip and lengthening underfoot. On paper, it seems to be the most versatile of the Firebird skis both in terms of turn shapes and the snow conditions it can handle. Before we dive into performance, let's take a look at construction.
The Firebird HRC uses Blizzard's World Cup Construction. A full-length wood core is sandwiched between two full-length sheets of Titanal metal. That's relatively traditional construction for a race ski, but Blizzard takes it a step further with their Carbon Armor and Carbon Spine technology. Carbon Armor is a layer of bi-directional carbon fiber positioned from edge to edge under the bindings. It adds stability and precision, which helps in the initiation phase of the turn. Carbon Spine refers to two bi-directional carbon fiber layers positioned vertically into the wood core. This gives the ski exceptional energy and rebound, which helps snap you out of the second part of the turn. Blizzard spent a lot of time doing research and development with the Firebird skis, bouncing concepts off their athletes and engineers, refining their construction, and ultimately trying to find the difference between a good run and a great run, and we think they've done it.
The Firebird HRC absolutely rips and is also a whole lot of fun to ski. One of Blizzard's goals was to bring some fun back into frontside skiing, both in performance and attitude, and we think they've done a phenomenal job. All too often high-end frontside carving skis are so unforgiving they can be described as punishing, but the Firebird HRC achieves ultra-high performance with a smoother feel than most. Blizzard has done a tremendous job achieving high levels of torsional stiffness while maintaining smooth longitudinal flex. It gives them a relatively unique feel and makes them a pure joy to ski. You take the stability for granted, but Carbon Armor is definitely doing its job alongside those metal laminates. In my opinion, you really feel the Carbon Spine and the energy and responsiveness it provides. They're very snappy, which makes it exceptionally satisfying to load the ski up, get it to flex, then reap the benefits. The FDT binding plate that Blizzard uses is 10% softer compared to their World Cup level Piston Plate, which I think helps the performance of these skis and is part of the reason the longitudinal flex feels so smooth. It's still a burly ski, don't get me wrong, but the flex pattern is less violent than some skis I've been on.
The turn radius of the Firebird HRC is very satisfying as well. It doesn't feel like a slalom turn and doesn't feel like a GS turn, it's somewhere in between. You can also gas pedal the ski into shorter turns relatively easily, thanks to that multi-radius design. Skiing style, technique, and how you're weighting the ski goes a long way. Driving the tip of the ski will get it to swing into shorter turns, while keeping your weight more centered and "riding" the ski results in longer turns. This is really fun for a frontside carving ski. Sometimes I feel too locked into a particular turn shape on a system carving ski, but the Firebird HRC feels willing and even eager to make different turns. Skiers who specifically like to make long radius turns may want to go with the WRC, as the difference between a 17 meter turn radius and a 19.5 meter radius is fairly significant (that's the 182 cm HRC and the 185 cm WRC). For those looking to make really big, arcing turns, it might even be worth going with the non-FIS version of the GS ski, which offers 22.5 and 25.7 m radii in the 177 and 184 cm lengths. Keep in mind, however, that if you're going with one of those skis with a longer turn radius, it's also going to be a much narrower ski.
Which brings us to the width of the Firebird HRC. Width for frontside carving skis can be tricky. Too wide and you lose valuable quickness edge to edge. Too narrow and the skis will get bogged down too easily, making them only feel appropriate on really firm days or early in the morning on perfect corduroy. This 76 mm width is a really nice compromise. It still feels very quick edge to edge, especially if you put it up against wider all-mountain skis like the Brahma 82 and 88. On the other hand, it can handle some soft snow conditions without feeling terrifying. In fact, its performance in soft snow is pretty darn impressive. On a ski this narrow, it's the most fun we can remember having in soft snow conditions. The smooth longitudinal flex really helps, giving the ski a touch of forgiveness in softer snow, and the 76 mm width doesn't get bogged down as easily as sub-70 mm skis. We skied it on a snowy day with the Blizzard crew down at Cannon and had a whole lot of fun. Those on the Firebird HRC didn't have too much trouble keeping up with other skiers on Rustler 9s and Brahma 88s when the snow got soft, but then rocketed ahead on firmer, more recently groomed spots.
If you're looking for a frontside ripper, you should have these Firebird skis on your list. We're big fans of them, and they definitely take the performance we found in the Quattro series to a whole new level as far as consumer carving skis go. We liked those Quattros too, but they didn't quite have the performance and attitude of the Firebirds. There are plenty of choices within the line too, as we've touched on throughout this article. The HRC feels like a great choice for a daily-driver carving ski because of that extra width underfoot and its ability to make different turn shapes, but it would also be perfectly appropriate as a beer-league race ski. The manager of our physical store is swapping out his beer league skis for a fresh pair of Firebird HRCs. Considering he has access to just about any ski in the world, that says a lot.